Cholesterol by Any Other Name
Most people know that high total cholesterol usually indicates heart disease and high blood pressure. Although we are familiar with “good” and “bad” cholesterol, there are six main types of lipids (fats) in the bloodstream that can give a more informed view of our state of health. These can be very useful for those with high blood pressure symptoms and those wanting to counter high blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle.
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and is considered “good” cholesterol. It helps remove the less desirable LDL cholesterol fatty acids by transporting it to the liver where it is reprocessed. HDL cholesterol also helps maintain the inner endothelium lining of blood vessels by keeping them clear of plaque build-up, a common cause of high blood pressure.
In the case of HDL cholesterol, high numbers can be good. If you have 60 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol or more, this means you are at lower risk of heart disease than those with less than 40mg/dL. Anaerobic exercise, quitting smoking and losing excess weight can all help boost healthy HDL levels.
LDL refers to low-density lipoprotein which is “bad” cholesterol as it collects on the walls of blood vessels, restricting the blood flow and causing the symptoms of high blood pressure. If left to build-up, plaque-causing LDL cholesterol can lead to a blockage where a blood clot might form.
High levels of LDL indicate a higher risk of heart disease or stroke. If your LDL levels are above 150 mg/dL, you need to exercise regularly, cut out saturated fats and eat more fiber.
RLP stands for remnant-like particle cholesterol which is considered one of the most harmful lipoproteins. High levels of RLP are associated with coronary heart disease, even in those with normal total cholesterol and low LDL. Omega-3 fatty acids can significantly lower levels of RLP in those with levels above 7.5mg/dL.
Intermediate-density lipoproteins are similar to LDL and can similarly be controlled with a low-fat diet and exercise. IDL creates damaging plaque build-up in the arteries causing high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, which lead to heart disease, stroke and sudden death.
Recent research shows that Lp(a) levels can accurately assess the risk of future cardiovascular disease. Although more research needs to be done, doctors suggest Lp(a) levels should be below 50mg/dL to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Triglycerides are another form of fat which the body uses to store energy. Unfortunately, fat stored in the form of triglycerides tends to affect muscle tissue and creates fatty liver disease.
High triglycerides can be genetic but when accompanied by high blood pressure, obesity, increased blood sugars and high levels of inflammatory proteins they indicate a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Try to maintain triglyceride levels at 150 or below by losing weight and increasing exercise.
Learning more about these blood lipids helps us understand the importance of following a healthy lifestyle. The best way to reduce high blood pressure and raised cholesterol is by following a low-fat, high-fiber diet with regular exercise to keep all those lipids in check.